When I reviewed Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 1 back in October 2009, I felt it was a monumental and worthwhile compilation of game material from around the blogosphere. Jonathan Jacobs somehow managed to do everything from curating the articles to having the book printed and available. The result was a book that managed to provide players and gamemasters, both new and old, more inspiration than you could shake a stick at.
With Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 2 (OGTv2), Jacobs managed to get much more help with nearly every part of the process – from nominating material to editing, art, and so on. He even managed to get sponsors to help foot the bill to pay for part of the publishing effort so it wasn’t all out of his wallet.
To avoid any misconceptions, I helped with a couple of parts of the process of OGTv2. I worked as a peer reviewer and contributed some funds to help get the book printed. But even with my help and the help of many other folks, I suspect Jonathan put in the lion’s share of the work on this book.
That said, this book is simply astounding from the description of the daily gaming convention on the web in the foreward from RPG industry veteran Justin Achili to Trent Colwell’s hilarious article – “The Tale of Jacques: A Study in Ignominious RPG Death” – in which poor Jack’s character drowns in spectacular fashion teaching everyone to make sure the rope is tied off before you jump into a torrential river of death… I think there’s something for everyone stuffed into this 158 page volume.
Just to provide some context, I’ll provide a bit of information about a few articles…
Jeremy Jones’ article “The More Fantastical It Can Be: Map Talk with Jonathan Roberts” (http://www.koboldquarterly.com) provides a bit of background on how Roberts’ cartography skills developed to make him one of the more sought-after map artists in the industry. He started out developing maps for virtual tabletop (VTT) programs like Maptool and eventually shifted to using Gimp, a free image editor that provides a ton of functionality for free (unlike Photoshop). By using a graphics tablet, he captures the freeform approach of hand-drawn maps and expands on them digitally. The work I’ve seen of his in Kobold Quarterly is just stunning, managing to not only provide a functional resource but one with a character of its own. Great interviews like this provide insights budding cartographers can use to enhance their own game maps.
The entire section on “New Players, New Games” provides many great articles for inspiration on how to bring new people into the hobby we all know and love already. The article “A System for Playing D&D With My Kid” from Enrique Bertran (http://newbiedm.com) describes a new, simple rules system for the preschool and elementary school players that may be lurking at your house. I’ve often toyed with the idea of getting my 5 and 9 year old girls involved, because they love to use their imaginations already. RPGKids fits that niche perfectly and is something I hope to explore soon. Teaching tactics, using basic math skills, and using their brains should be great practice for the real world – let alone future sessions of D&D!
And “Campaign Success & Failure” also had some great food for thought, including an article that really got my brain going a bit… “The Short Campaign Manifesto” by Yacine Merzouk (http://www.dungeonmastering.com) provides a list of 15 demands for a simple set of rules for a short (2-3 hour) campaign in a session. I have a bit of experience with fighting scheduling issues for groups as of late, so the idea of a shorter story that gets wrapped up in one sitting has some serious appeal. As Merzouk says, “How often can we realistically tell an epic tale? Not often.” I know when I was a GM, I felt compelled to create bigger, better, more epic adventures for my groups. Maybe now I need to rethink that and go back to the drawing board.
And that’s just the first third of the book. That doesn’t even get you to the “Campaign Design Choices,” “Of Sandboxes & Railroads,” or “The RPG Toolbox” sections which come later…
Once again, Jacobs has helmed an excellent resource for gamers of all levels and types. If all of the projects from his Nevermeet Press do as well as the Open Game Table series, he’s got many years of success ahead of him.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 2 as a PDF or hardcopy today!
(This review first appeared here: http://blogcritics.org/rpg-book-review-open-game-table/)